Thursday, January 27, 2005

It's Time for Alford to Make Some Iowa Lineup Changes

It was a dead heat.

The e-mail from a guy who identified Iowa’s first-round opponent in the National Invitation Tournament arrived on my computer at about the same time disgruntled Hawkeye coach Steve Alford was saying there could be changes in his starting lineup Saturday.

No sooner had 23rd-ranked Iowa lost at Northwestern, 75-74, in overtime than my old friend two time zones away, “View from the Left Coast,” fired off this e-mail to me:

“That Iowa-Northern Iowa first-round NIT game should be a doozy.”

I certainly agree. And I pointed out to “View from the Left Coast” that it’ll be an even better game because NIT officials will schedule it for the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls. An Iowa matchup there with the Panthers will draw a bigger crowd than at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

Oh, I know Iowa—with a 14-5 overall record that includes early victories over Louisville and Texas—is still a candidate for the NCAA tournament. But if the Hawkeyes, who are an extremely disappointing 2-4 in the Big Ten, turn in many more performances like they had last night in Evanston, Ill., they’ll certainly play their way right into the dreaded NIT again.

Alford was sick of what he saw at Northwestern, and Iowa fans are sick of watching the Hawkeyes’ 2004-05 season disintegrate.

Alford indicated his starters may change for Saturday’s 4 p.m. game against Indiana at Iowa City.

For those awaiting coaching changes—at either Iowa or Indiana—there is no news yet.

“We’re going to have to make some changes going into Saturday’s game and try to get better,” Alford told interviewer Bobby Hansen on Iowa radio network’s postgame show.

That wasn’t all. There was much more that Mr. Mousse barked into Hansen’s microphone.

“I’ve praised our captains all year long,” Alford said of Jeff Horner, Pierre Pierce and Greg Brunner. “I thought tonight was as bad as I’ve seen them perform. It’s frustrating because this was a must-win for us, and we didn’t get it.”

Pierce, with an astonishing number of mistakes, threw the ball everywhere but to his teammates. Brunner and Horner played defense like it was a communicable disease.

Carlton Reed and Doug Thomas would appear to be prominent candidates to get starting jobs Saturday.

“Brunner has a career-high offensively [28 points], but so does his man,” Alford said of the game at Northwestern. “His man [the Croatian Nation’s VedranVukusic] got 32. Pierce has 10 turnovers.”

And Horner, the best free thrower in the Big Ten last season, missed two with 18.6 seconds remaining in overtime and was 1-for-5 for the game.

“The smarter team won,” Alford said on the radio. “We had one lapse after another. We had the game won about three different times.”

Michael Jenkins, who came to Northwestern without a basketball scholarship, was so wide-open on the final play of the game that he probably wondered if he was using the wrong underarm deodorant.

He launched the winning three-point field goal on a shot that might have made Dr. James Naismith have second thoughts about whether he really wanted to invent the sport of basketball.

“I mean that thing clanked from the left of the iron to the back of the iron to the right of the iron, and then fell through,” Iowa play-by-play announcer Gary Dolphin said on the air of Jenkins’ shot, which had all the attractiveness of a canker sore.

It might have helped if Horner had been in the same general area as Jenkins. Instead, it was like he was still running around in the gym at Mason City High School.

“Everybody had their man except Jeff,” Alford complained. “His man was just standing there. He wasn’t paying attention to his guy. He was standing in the corner. His guy never moved.”

Another guy, who follows the fortunes or misfortunes of Iowa, Iowa State, Drake and Northern Iowa said in his e-mail to me that “the last part of the game at Northwestern was a painful thing to watch. Who would believe Horner would miss all those free throws and let his man alone for the winning three-pointer?

“And Pierce committing 10 turnovers is unbelievable. If anyone believes a team could throw a game, you could believe Iowa did, except there is no way Horner would be part of that.

“I think Iowa is just snake-bit. They may be looking at the NIT again. And speaking of the NIT, Iowa State might not make that. Another masterful job by Wayne Morgan.”

[NOTE: Something tells me the guy was writing tongue-in-computer when he used that “masterful job by Wayne Morgan” line].

“How could Curtis Stinson be hurt to the point that he couldn’t start but did go in after 4 minutes?” the e-mailer continued. “It might have been a disciplinary action, not starting him. I listened to the radio broadcast of the Drake game briefly to get the score and heard [commentator] Dolph Pulliam say, ‘I’m so proud of the Bulldogs for playing hard.’ I thought that’s what they are supposed to do.

“Bring on football!”

That guy is correct in saying that Iowa State’s postseason hopes are becoming threadbare. The Cyclones, who went to the NIT semifinals in New York City last season, were determined to go to the NCAA tournament this season.

Forget it. They’re now in the Big 12 cellar at 0-5 and are 8-8 overall heading into Saturday’s 3 p.m. home game against Oklahoma.

“Losing is not bad or sad,” Morgan said on his postgame radio show after last night’s 63-51 loss at Kansas State. “Losing is horrible. It’s misery. We all feet that.

“If we get better every day, at some point we’ll stand in our locker room with our fists raised over our heads. We’ll play our hearts out against Oklahoma.”

At least Morgan seemed to be in a little better mood than after his team lost to Colorado last Saturday at Hilton Coliseum in Ames.

That night, he said, “We couldn’t beat Ames High School” with the type of rebounding his players did.

Like my e-mailer friend said, bring on football.


Now on to more upbeat things.

A number of guys who knew something about putting points on the scoreboard and winning will be on hand for Drake’s basketball alumni gathering Saturday night at the Knapp Center.

Included are Bart Fredrick, the Missouri Valley Conference’s freshman of the year in 1985-86; B.J. Windhorst, a first-team all-Valley p0layer in 1995-96 and the league’s newcomer of the year in 1994-95; Dolph Pulliam and Rick Wanamaker of the 1968-69 Final Four team; Jeff Halliburton, a standout in Maury John’s final years at Drake; Kaylon Green, a starter in 1989-90 and 1990-91; Lynnrick Rogers, a three-time second-team Valley pick in the 1990s, Terry Robinson, Craig Davis and Lee (The Flea) Allen.


Erin Kiernan, an anchor and reporter at KCCI-TV, has decided to join WHO-TV in Des Moines, the station where she started her broadcasting career.

"With Erin's return to Channel 13 we are making a statement", says WHO-TV president and general manager Jim Boyer. "It says we are serious about assembling the best group of broadcast journalists in Iowa, we are serious about creating the market's best newscast and we are in this for the long haul.

"Erin is an accomplished anchor and a superb journalist. Even before she is allowed to appear on our air, she will make a major contribution to our newscasts as a writer and producer of special reports."

Kiernan said she's "very excited and appreciative of the opportunity WHO is providing me. I found the work atmosphere created by Jim Boyer and Mark Ginther to be one that anyone would be pleased to work in.

"I am also sad to be leaving a terrific station in KCCI. Walking away from my many friendships and an opportunity to sit beside Kevin Cooney was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. I wish Kevin and my friends there nothing but the best."

WHO-TV news director Mark Ginther said, "Erin knows and loves Iowa, shares our great midwestern values, has roots in our community and wants to live and grow here. They're qualities that really sold us on Erin and ones that will serve her, Channel 13, and our viewers well in her new position."

Due to contractual obligations, Kiernan can not appear on Channel 13's air during the first year of her multi-year agreement, a practice standard in the industry when moving within the same market. She will, however, play an active role behind-the-scenes in the daily news process at Channel 13 News including producing special investigative reports.

Kiernan currently anchors the weekend news at KCCI, where she started in 1998. In addition to anchoring, she became known for her award-winning investigative work and special series pieces.

In the spring of 2004, she received a regional Edward R. Murrow award for her two-part series on date-rape drugs. In 2000, she also received a regional Murrow Award for her investigative series "True Colors," which focused on racism at bars in the Des Moines metro area. She has also done investigative series reports on identity theft, sex offenders, arson, ecstasy, meth and unlicensed drivers.

Kiernan graduated from Drake University with a degree in broadcast journalism. While attending school, she worked as a part-time reporter at Channel 13 news. Next, she worked for WOI-TV as a reporter and photographer.

Born and raised in Chadron, Neb., Kiernan says her career in broadcasting really started when she imitated television news reporters while dressing up in her mother's clothes as a child.

Vol. 4, No. 302
Jan. 27. 2005